#Bookexcursion, Debut Author, It's Monday! What Are You Reading?, Middle Grade Literature, Picture Books

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 4/19/21

Bella and I are excited to share our latest reads in It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #IMWAYR is a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading.  Kellee Moye of Unleashing Readers and Jen Vincent of Teach Mentor Texts decided to give it a #kidlit focus and encourage everyone who participates to visit at least 3 of the other #kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.

Our Recent Reads:

The Gilded Girl by Alyssa Coleman

In 1906, 12 year old Emma has recently enrolled at Miss Posterity’s Academy for Practical Magic in New York City.  Her purpose?  To learn kindling, which will allow Emma to utilize her magic powers.  Emma is one of the privileged, for her wealth allows her the training to learn how to harness her magic; in contrast, Izzy O’Donnell, a servant working at the school, is expected to allow her magic to be snuffed out.  When Emma’s father is declared dead, a victim of the San Francisco earthquake, her status at the school quickly changes from student to servant.  While Emma and Izzy did not initially see eye to eye, they  become unlikely friends because they both desire to keep their magic.  Izzy will train Emma on being a servant and Emma will share her knowledge of kindling.  With help from another student, Frances, and Figgy, a house dragon disguised as a cat, Emma and Izzy train together so that they are prepared when the kindling winds arrive.  But when the winds come, the friends must work together to not only support each other but the other girls at the school.  

The Gilded Girl is a clever and innovative retelling of The Little Princess. I love that Coleman chose to tell the story in alternating chapters from the perspectives of both Emma and Izzy.  Readers get to know each girl well witnessing the transformation of Emma whose sudden change in social status teaches her about the injustices between classes and Izzy shows her willingness to trust as well as her vulnerability. Armed with this new insight, Emma and Izzy seek to make magic available to all.  

After reading The Gilded Girl, my heart was filled with hope, for Emma and Izzy are great role models for middle grade readers because of their perseverance, courage, and passion. Thanks to author Alyssa Coleman and Macmillian Publishers for sharing an e-galley with Beagles and Books.  The Gilded Girl recently published on April 6, 2021. 

The Last Shadow Warrior by Sam Subity

On the surface, Abby seems like a typical 12 year old, but in reality, she is a descendant of elite Viking warriors known as the Aesir.  She is eager to continue her mother’s legacy of hunting monsters known as Grendels especially since her mother’s mysterious death four years ago.  After her home in North Carolina is attacked by what Abby fears is a Grendel, she and dad relocate to Minnesota in order for Abby to attend Vale Hall, her mother’s alma mater.  While on the road, Abby and her dad are attacked again. Her dad is injured resulting in him falling into a mysterious coma. 

At Vale Hall, Abby gradually learns that the Viking Council does not believe that Grendels exist anymore and refutes her mother’s life work.  With the help of new friends, Grimsby and Gwynn, Abby goes on a mission to discover an antidote to save her dad and the truth to preserve her mom’s reputation. 

Told from Abby’s perspective, The Last Shadow Warrior is a fast-paced, riveting story that is hard to put down.  Mythology-based fantasy is not a genre I have widely read, but I really was drawn into the plot because Subity merged fantasy with a contemporary setting.  Abby is also a strong character who is willing to stand up for herself and others.  Her relationship with her dad was especially touching.  What also kept me reading was the humor for Subity included a lot of light moments to ease the tension.  While some plot events are tied up, there are still questions left unanswered which leaves me hopeful that Abby’s adventures are not over yet.  Thanks to author Sam Subity and Scholastic for sharing an ARC with my #bookexcursion group.  The Last Shadow Warrior recently published on April 6, 2021. 


Be a Tree by Maria Gianferrari Illustrated by Felicita Sala

Be a tree!
Stand tall.
Stretch your branches to the sun.

These ten words begin Gianferrari’s glorious ode extolling the sheer beauty of one of nature’s gifts and how humans have similar physical characteristics to this earthy treasure.   Trees and humans both have parts such as branches and arms, trunks and spines, bark and skin, and a crown at the top.   Sala’s warm watercolor illustrations gorgeously echo Gianferrari’s lyrical text showing the physical similarities so that even the youngest readers can see the connections.   To read my full review, click here. 

Bella’s Pick of the Week

Wanting to spread the dog love, Beagles and Books has a weekly feature of highlighting a literary selection with a canine main character.

Sugar and Spite by Gail D. Villanueva

12 year old Jolina and her parents have recently moved from the city of Manila to a small island in the Philippines.  Her grandmother, Lola Toyang recently passed away and her grandfather, Lolo Sebyo is recovering from a stroke.  As a result, her father now manages the family eatery, Bagayan Food Haus.  Being new to the island, Jolina does not have many friends yet.  Her Jack Russell terrier, Kidlat, is her constant and loyal companion.  

As the story begins, Jolina is enduring bullying from Claudine, a girl in her Bible study group. Because her mother works at Claudine’s family’s resort, Jolina feels she cannot tell anyone about Claudine’s awful behavior.  As an arbularyo  (healer) apprentice, Jolina gets weekly lessons from her grandfather and while she knows the dangers of using magic for the wrong reasons, she decides Claudine needs to be taught a lesson on how to be kind; therefore, Jolina concocts a love potion to get Claudine to be nice to her and it works!  But as she spends more time with Claudine and the girls truly become friends, Jolina feels guilty about her actions and learns firsthand the consequences of using magic for the wrong reasons.  

A blend of fantasy and realistic fiction and an intriguing plot, Sugar and Spite is an #ownvoices middle grade novel that will appeal to readers exploring themes such as family, friendship, and forgiveness.  It is no surprise that what I loved the most about the novel is the relationship between Jolina and Kidlat.  The bond between the girl and her dog was heartwarming and in the author’s note, Villanueva shares that Jolina’s and Kidlat’s deep connection was honoring her relationship with her beloved pet, Kubrick.  Thanks to Gail Villanueva and Scholastic for sharing an e-galley with Beagles and Books. Sugar and Spite celebrates its book birthday tomorrow on April 20, 2021.


Bella and I thank you for visiting Beagles and Books!

“People love dogs. You can never go wrong adding a dog to the story.”
Jim Butcher
#IMWAYR is dedicated to dear Etta, my original book beagle. Blessed that Etta is part of my story.

Blog Tour, Giveaway, Picture Books

Blog Tour & Giveaway for Be a Tree by Maria Gianferrari


Bella and I are honored to launch the blog tour for Be a Tree written by Maria Gianferrari and illustrated by Felicita Sala.  This breathtaking picture book celebrating trees was recently released last week on March 30, 2021. Thanks to author Maria Gianferrari and Abrams Book for Young Readers for sending me an electronic copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.


Be a tree!
Stand tall.
Stretch your branches to the sun.

These ten words begin Gianferrari’s glorious ode extolling the sheer beauty of one of nature’s gifts and how humans have similar physical characteristics to this earthy treasure.   Trees and humans both have parts such as branches and arms, trunks and spines, bark and skin, and a crown at the top.   Sala’s warm watercolor illustrations gorgeously echo Gianferrari’s lyrical text showing the physical similarities so that even the youngest readers can see the connections.   
The focus shifts from physical features to how we as humans also share common behaviors with trees.  Both trees and humans live together in a community.  Just as trees are linked underground through their roots, people are connected by sharing conversations, food, resources, and information.  
Gianferrari’s admiration and respect for trees is evident, for she beautifully describes their value to both humans and the earth.  Sala’s artwork fill the double page spreads depicting a tree’s grandeur and utility. 
Gianferrari continues to highlight all the benefits of trees, for they serve as animal habitats preserving ecosystems.  The need for community is emphasized for trees that grow away from their natural habitat are at risk; therefore, a forest is vital for support.  A beautiful double page fold out shows how people can learn from trees by helping one another.  In the final page spread, Gianferrari gently reminds us to observe and learn from trees, for by banding together, we can not only be better as individuals but also make the world in which we live a better place. 
Backmatter follows the story to provide information on ways to help save trees and help in your community.  A diagram of a tree and its parts as well as books and websites for further research are also included.  Informative and uplifting, Be a Tree is a must to add to a home, classroom or school library.  Highly recommend! 

Praise for Be a Tree!
“This book has the advantage of lyrical, accessible poetry and vibrant watercolors from an ever changing palette. …Strong heartwood.”-Kirkus

“By foregrounding living beings that exemplify grace, strength, and endurance, Gianferrari gives readers a new way to think about their individual and collective existences.” –Publishers Weekly

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Meet Maria:
Maria Gianferrari has climbed fig trees in Italy, stood under stately coastal redwoods and twisted Torrey pines, marveled at   mitten-shaped sassafras leaves, colorful coral trees and   sawtooth oak acorn nests. She lives with her family, including   dog, Maple, in a house encircled by trees.


Meet Felicita:
Felicita is a self taught illustrator. She graduated in Philosophy from the University of Western Australia. She has worked on several animation projects along with husband Gianluca, but her passion is making picture books. She lives in Rome with Gianluca and their daughter Nina.

Enter Beagles & Books’ Giveaway!

Maria’s sweet pup Maple announces that one lucky winner will receive a copy of Be a Tree courtesy of the publisher. This giveaway is open from April 9-14, 2020 and ends at 10:00 p.m. EST.  
  • Follow me @lauramossa on Twitter and retweet my Be a Tree giveaway tweet.
  • If you are not on Twitter, fill out the Google form below.

Be a Tree Blog Tour

Continue the tour by visiting blogs sharing their thoughts as well as offering their own giveaways!

Blog Tour, Giveaway, Picture Books

Blog Tour & Giveaway for Julius & Macy: A Very Brave Night by Annlouise Mahoney


About the Book:
Title: Julius & Macy: A Very Brave Night
Author/Illustrator: Annlouise Mahoney
Pub. Date: April 1, 2021

Beagles and Books is excited to be part of the blog tour for Julius & Macy: A Very Brave Night published by Two Lions/Amazon Publishing. Special thanks to the publisher and Barbara Fisch of Blue Slip Media for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.


Each night, Julius, a badger and Macy, a mouse love to play together and greatly enjoy performing heroic deeds. 


Julius wished to protect the forest from anything harmful while Macy wanted to help any small thing in need.  Being a hero takes a lot of energy; therefore, it is important to refuel with snacks.  When Julius and Macy go to fetch their cookies and nuts, they discover an empty wagon.  Julius asserts that the Night Goblin must have taken them and describes him as the worst kind of scary to Macy.  


In order to find their snacks, Julius and Macy must be truly heroic and venture deep into an unknown area of the forest. A noise from inside a cave frightens them. Could it be the Night Goblin?JuliusAndMacyAVeryBraveNight-28609-large-3

Armed with a sword and a fairy wand, the two friends bravely enter the hollow to discover the source of the sound. A huge shadow on the wall startles them and they run away but then realize heroes must stay brave even when they are scared.

Mahoney’s concise, melodic text is a joy to read aloud especially the dialogue between the two friends.  Her warm illustrations are dreamy and luminous.  I love how Julius and Macy collaborate on making stars to hang on the trees to bring the celestial objects closer to them  creating a fanciful setting.   

As a reading specialist, I appreciate that the story has a simple yet engaging plot to teach young children about story structure.  Characters Julius and Macy have a problem, identify steps to solve their problem which ultimately resolves it.   In addition, themes of friendship, bravery, and kindness can be explored.  I especially appreciate that Mahoney teaches children that bravery can take many forms, for Julius and Macy both display courage in their own ways.  

Check out this sweet book trailer!

Take a look at this cute downloadable activity pages: 


Praise for Julius & Macy!

Watercolor illustrations further the text’s magical qualities by adding important details, such as the solitary nature of Sherwin’s home. Softly glowing with campfire and starlight, this tale is an inviting bedtime story and a gentle ode to kindness.” ―Booklist

About the Author/Illustrator:
Annelouise Mahoney has worked in animation for DreamWorks, DIC Animation, Sony, and Saban Entertainment. She has also worked as a colorist for Marvel and Image Comics on such series as Uncanny X-Men, Generation X, and others. This is her first picture book, and it was inspired by the depths of her daughters’ friendships and the many ways they are brave, especially with someone on their side. She loves to explore the forest, can’t resist a cave, and has a lot of love for all those named Julius in her life. Annelouise lives in Southern California with her family. Learn more about her at www.woodlandabbey.com.

Facebook: Woodland Abbey

Twitter: @WoodlandAbbey

Instagram: Annelouise Mahoney

Two Lions Giveaway Details:

Amazon 2021 giveaway_3 books

Five lucky winners will each receive three fabulous books celebrating the art of making and keeping friends, including Julius and Macy: A Very Brave Night, courtesy of Two Lions.

Details and entry form can be found here (US addresses).

Winners will be selected at random and notified via email. One entry per person, please. US addresses only. Entries are due by 5/1/21.

#Bookexcursion, #classroombookaday, It's Monday! What Are You Reading?, Middle Grade Literature, Picture Books

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 4/5/21

Bella and I are excited to share our latest reads in It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #IMWAYR is a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading.  Kellee Moye of Unleashing Readers and Jen Vincent of Teach Mentor Texts decided to give it a #kidlit focus and encourage everyone who participates to visit at least 3 of the other #kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.

Our Recent Reads:


The Great Peach Experiment 1: When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Peach Pie by Erin Soderberg Downing

Since Lucy’s mother died, her father, a university professor, threw himself into his research, and the 12 year old became surrogate parent to her two younger siblings, 10 year old Freddy and 8 year old Herb.   Then, out of the blue, their dad announces that one of their mom’s inventions sold for over a million dollars.  To fulfill one of their mom’s dreams, their dad bought a used food truck and the Peach family is going to spend the summer together traveling the Midwest selling pies.  While Freddy and Herb are excited about the opportunity, Lucy is skeptical.  Why is their dad who hasn’t taken a day off in two years suddenly willing to commit a full month to this food truck experiment?  Lucy wanted to think positively that the trip might unite them as a family, but it was difficult given their father’s track record. 

As the Peach family travels from town to town and endure highs and lows running the family business, Downing allows readers to get to know each sibling well.  An avid reader, Lucy is determined to read every book on the seventh grade summer reading list and Downing curated a list so amazing, I may adopt it for myself this summer.  Lucy is very strong person but assumed the role of problem solver not by choice and her frustration is finally manifesting.  Freddy feels he is a plum in a family of Peaches, for his passion is art, creativity, big ideas, and fun facts unlike his siblings and parents.  Throughout the Great Peach Experiment, Freddy though emerges as a natural leader and astute businessman.  While the youngest, Herb is a math whiz and feels he has a lot of contribute to the family business, but begins to feel restless when he was told he was too young to help bake pies, ingredients for his cinnaballs were too expensive or there wasn’t time to find a place to swim.  And while dad believes the main goal is to win top honors at the Ohio Food Truck Festival, Lucy, Freddy, and Herb make him realize that their family is the greatest prize. 

The Great Peach Experiment is a middle grade novel with both heartache, humor and most importantly, hope.  An added bonus were Lucy’s amusing letters to her Great Aunt Lucinda, Freddy’s sketchbook drawing for how he would spend a million dollars, maps, and Herb’s financial updates. Grateful to know that another Peach family adventure awaits in the future. Special thanks to Erin Soderberg Downing for sharing an ARC with my #bookexcursion group.  When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Peach Pie releases tomorrow on April 6, 2021. 


Something’s Wrong? A Bear, A Hare and Some Underwear by Jory John Illustrated by Erin Kraan

One morning, a bear named Jeff woke up and felt like he was forgetting something.  Readers notice right away that Jeff is still wearing the gift from his grandma-underwear! As Jeff takes a stroll through the forest, he still feels odd but clueless.  On his travels, he passes by many animals who look at him in bewilderment.  After Jeff walks away, they all speak directly to the reader uttering the same words “Why is that bear wearing underwear?”  Finally, Jeff realizes he needs to consult with his rabbit friend, Anders, whom he trusts to be honest with him.  Anders immediately knows what’s wrong and candidly tells Jeff what no other animal would say.  When confronted by all the animals,  embarrassed Jeff tries to talk his way out of his predicament, but Anders saves the day by sporting his own pair of tighty whities creating a new fashion trend.

When I read Something’s Wrong to kindergarten students for #classroombookaday, the laughter started on the very first page spread and remained until the end of the story.  John’s hilarious plot and clever solution along with Kraan’s adorably expressive illustrations were such a hit with the kids that asked if I could read it again.  As a an adult, what I loved most is the lesson of friendship.  Anders was indeed a true and trusted friend because not only did he tell Jeff the truth but his actions shows he likes Jeff no matter what he does or wears.  And support is pretty crucial with choosing friends and underwear!  Thanks to Morgan Rath of Macmillan Children’s Publishing for sharing a copy with Beagles and Books.  Something’s Wrong recently celebrated its book birthday on March 23, 2021. 

Happy Book Birthday to Albert Whitman Picture Books!


Check out my blog post, Happy Birthday Albert Whitman Picture Books, featuring recently released picture books published by Albert Whitman. Thanks to Albert Whitman for sharing ARCs with my #bookexcursion group. 

Bella’s Pick of the Week

Wanting to spread the dog love, Beagles and Books has a weekly feature of highlighting a literary selection with a canine main character.


Switched by Bruce Hale

Sloppy and spontaneous are not words that would describe sixth grader Parker Pitts for he likes things neat and orderly.  But with the recent loss of his grandmother Mimi and his older half sister Billie going away to school, he is forced to deal with a lot of change which is a bit overwhelming.  To make matters worst, his parents decide that he is now in charge of Billie’s unruly goldendoodle Boof until she returns home.  He begrudgingly takes care of the Boof, but when the undisciplined Boof gets a hold of Eshu, a trickster statue that was a gift from Mimi, Parker is furious.  As he attempts to save the precious statue, Parker makes a wish.  The very next day, Parkers wakes up in Boof’s furry body and Boof is now inhabiting Parker’s human body.  Given his penchant for cleanliness, it’s no surprise that Parker is not embracing the dog’s life.  In contrast, Boof loves the easy access to food and his free spirited nature makes Parker’s classmates see him in a whole new light.  Will Parker and Boof be stuck forever or figure out a way to switch back?

Reminscient of Freaky Friday, one of my favorite books growing up, Switched is a hilarious recreation. Once the switch happens, I thoroughly enjoyed reading both Parker and Boof’s point of view as they attempt to adjust to their new bodies.  While there are lots of laugh out loud moments, Parker learns valuable lessons about life, for yes, it can be messy and you can’t control and change it.  And if you just let it happen, you start to truly live.  Thanks to Bruce Hale for sharing an ARC with my #bookexcursion group.  Switched releases tomorrow on April 6, 2021. 

Bella and I thank you for visiting Beagles and Books!

“People love dogs. You can never go wrong adding a dog to the story.”
Jim Butcher
#IMWAYR is dedicated to dear Etta, my original book beagle. Blessed that Etta is part of my story.

Literati Kids Book Club

A Review of Literati Kids Book Clubs (Month 2)

Literati (2)

Disclosure: Beagles and Books was provided a complimentary product in exchange for its honest review.

About a month ago,  I shared my initial thoughts on Literati Kids Book Clubs.  In that post, I discussed how as a reading specialist, I am asked to provide parents with book recommendations.  Literati opened my eyes to the fact that my book lists always focused on fiction and neglected to suggest nonfiction options.  Cultivating independent readers is not only about reading picture books, chapter books, and/or novels.  Some kids may be more interested in reading an illustrated nonfiction book or an interactive book with puzzles and games.  Interest is the most important factor in order to engage young readers.

Last week, I received a second Literati Kids box and wanted to continue to share my honest thoughts about the books curated for this month.

Which Literati Kid Book Club is Best for Your Child? 

A friendly reminder that there are 6 options for book clubs. 

  • Neo-newborn to 3 years
  • Sprout-ages 3 to 5
  • Nova-ages 5 to 7
  • Sage-ages 7 to 9
  • Phoenix– ages 9 to 12
  • Titan– 13 and up

Visiting the Literati website will provide you with more information about the types of books curated for each club.  Since I mostly work with children transitioning to chapter book reading, Club Sage was the best choice for me. 

What Was Inside My Literati Box?

Early Chapter Books 

This month, my box contained 3 early chapter books.  What I especially love is that all books curated for this month are the first installment in a series.  Chapter book series are a great way to hook a reader because the first book will introduce the main characters, setting, and plot structure.  The subsequent books in the series feel familiar making them easier to read.  In addition, most series are written in the same style which can be reassuring to a young reader.  

  • Henry Heckelbeck Gets a Dragon by Wanda Coven Illustrated by Priscilla Burris
    Heidi Heckelbeck’s younger brother gets his own series!   In case you weren’t aware, all the women in Henry’s family are witches.  He and his dad are just regular people which suits Henry fine.  In this first book of the series, it’s Henry’s first day of school. As he gathers 3 things for his All About Me bag, he wants to add his remote control dragon and finds a book with a spell to make the dragon come alive.  Will the spell work? With large print and illustrations on every page, this series is perfect for budding chapter book readers. (119 pages)


  • Sofia Martinez: My Family Adventure by Jacqueline Jules Illustrated by Kim Smith
    The youngest of the Martinez sister, Sofia is determined to stand out. The first book in the series includes three chapters-a plan to look different from her sisters on picture day, making a pinata for her abuela, and taking care of friend’s class pet.  Through it all, Sofia encounters some problems but always finds ways to solve them.  Colorful illustrations will draw in young readers as well as the opportunity to learn Spanish words and phrases.  (91 pages)
  • Dino Riders: How to Tame a Triceratops  by Will Date
    Josh Sanders lives in the Lost Plains where cowboys ride dinosaurs. He loves his trusty gallimus, Plodder, but he wants to be like his hero, Terrordactyl Bill. Josh is also fed up with his all time worst enemy. Amos, making fun of Plodder and his lack of speed. Competing in the 100th Anniversary of Trihorn Race is the opportunity to prove himself. And even better-Terrordactyl Bill would present the first place trophy to the winner.   So when Josh has the opportunity to trade two of family’s iguanodons for a triceratops, he is excited but his parents are furious.  Can Josh train the triceratops in time to not only enter but also win the race? With an inventive setting, intriguing plot, illustrations, and maps, Dino Riders has a lot of kid appeal.  (107 pages)

Interactive Books

Along with the chapter books were interactive books that will engage young minds. 

  • True Detective: Mind-Bending Visual Riddles for Young Sleuths
    For kids who enjoy solving riddles, True Detective features three levels of puzzles: beginner sleuth, advanced sleuth, and super sleuth.  The goal is to identify the hard-to-spot difference when looking at very similar objects.  Page spreads may have up to 98 like items which can challenge even the best eyes and brains.


  • Illumisaurus by Carnovsky Written by Lucy Brownridge
    Take a trip back to prehistoric times when dinosaurs roamed the Earth.  Illumisaurus is organized by parts of the world.  In each area, sections include Where in the World, The Observation Deck, and Species Guide.  Children will be thoroughly engaged using the magic viewing lens as a tool to explore and learn.  Use the red lens to reveal dinosaurs, the green lens to see the location, and the blue lens to uncover plants and prehistorical animals. Hours and hours of discovery and facts await!

Other Goodies!

  • A collectible poster featuring original art by illustrator duo Carnovsky
  • Personalized bookplates

How Does the Club Work?

As a subscriber, children receive 5 expertly curated age-appropriate books. I was greatly pleased to see the books were all recently published.  The subscription runs at $9.95 a month. You only get charged for the ones you keep. There is a price breakdown of each book on the included packing list so you know how much each one will cost.

What I love is children can touch, open, skim, and read a portion of each book to decide which are a good fit for them.  You only keep the books they want and return the rest for free with the included pre-paid return shipping label.  Literati Kids books match or are less than Amazon pricing which I greatly appreciate.

If you’re interested in trying out Literati Kids a try, click here for 25% off your first box. 

Bella and I sincerely grateful to Literati Kids for sharing this another book box in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

#Bookexcursion, Book Birthday, Picture Books

Happy Book Birthday to Albert Whitman Picture Books!


Wishing a Happy Book Birthday to the following authors and illustrators!  Special thanks to Albert Whitman Publishing for sharing ARCs of their Spring 2021 picture books with my #bookexcursion group.  



Way Past Sad by Hallee Adelmann Illustrated by Karen Hall  (April 1, 2021)

James is sad when he finds out his best friend Sanj is moving and is leaving only a few days before his birthday.  When Sanj hands James an early present, James feels the sad take over his body and runs home.  Supportive mom gives James a hug which feels good but does not take away his sadness. Once James looks out his windows and sees Sanji looking unhappy , he realizes that spending time together will make them both feel better. They build a fort, play and most importantly, acknowledge that they will both miss each other. After Sanji moves away, the sadness remains but James agrees to bike ride with other friends and shows he is coping with the separation. On the last page, the illustration shows James’ birthday party and while Sanji could not attend in person, he is able to join via the computer. 

Way Past Jealous by Hallee Adelmann Illustrated by Karen Hall (April 1, 2021)

Yaz is very proud of a drawing of her and her friend Debby, but when everyone in her class makes over Debby’s dog artwork, jealousy begins to set in.  And when the teacher hangs Debby’s picture on the bulletin board, jealousy becomes more than just a feeling.  Yaz distances herself from her friends especially Debby and when no one is looking, tears Debby’s drawing from the display.  These actions though do not make Yaz feel any better about herself.  After seeing Debby’s sadness, Yaz admits what she has done and says she is sorry. Debby is no longer sad; she is mad.  The next day, Yaz apologizes to Debby again handing her the picture of the two of them.  Will Debby be able to forgive and be friends again?

Like Way Past Mad and Way Past Worried in the Great Big Feelings series, Way Past Sad and Way Past Jealous are stories that can help children process their feelings.   I love that Adelman writes her story in first person because children get to hear the inner conversation that both James and Yaz are having.  Embedded in the stories are actions, both good and bad, that each character uses to cope with their emotions.  It is important for kids to see the steps that both James and Yaz take to manage their feelings.  Hall’s bold illustrations fill up the page and complement the text well showing both children’s journey to overcome their sadness and jealousy.  I highly recommend the Great Big Feelings series as a teaching tool to support social emotional learning for young children. Check out the website, Way Past Books, for more information about the books in the series, videos, and fun and games!




Zoo-Mate Wanted by Korrie Lear (April 1, 2021)

Sisters Leah and Lilly share a room and a love for the zoo, but Lilly keeps her side neat and Leah’s side is untidy.  Tired of the mess, Lilly and her toy monkey move out and Leah decides to advertise for a roommate or in fact, a zoo-mate.  Lots of animals respond to the ad, but they all are not kind to her own dear stuffed monkey.  As a result, Leah was willing to make some changes to her poster which persuaded Lilly to return and made both monkeys (and sisters) happy.  

Zoo-Mate Wanted is an engaging and entertaining story about sibling relationships.  I love that Leer chose to draw Leah and Lilly as identical sisters in features, but very different in dress, hairstyle, and personalities.  When Lilly left, Leah seized the opportunity to find a roommate that was fine with noise, mess, snacking, painting, climbing, and best of all-no cleaning!  After her applicants did not work out, Leah demonstrates she can compromise revising her ad to include words such as neatly and cleaning.  And once the sisters are reunited, Leer shows that Leah and Lilly still have their struggles, but now their love for each other helps them work through any difficulties.  



Goldilocks and The Three Engineers by Sue Fliess Illustrated by Petros Bouloubasis (April 1, 2021)

It’s a role reversal for Goldilocks and the Three Bears in this STEM retelling of the classic fairy tale.  Creator Goldilocks is suffering from inventor’s block and takes a walk from her home to clear her head. Three bears are preparing for winter and on their travels to find honey, they see Goldilocks’ home and wonder if anyone lives there.  Upon entering the unlocked house, they are amazed at all of Goldilocks’ inventions but after trying them out, discovers ways to improve them.  For example, the chair would be better with wheels, the porridge tastier with honey, and the bed more stable with gears. When Goldilocks returns, she observes all the enhancements with delight. After formally meeting the bears who introduce themselves as engineers, Goldilocks realizes that four brains are better than one inviting them to join her team. 

Goldilocks and the Three Engineers is a fun take on the the original and is a welcome addition to Fleiss and Bouloubasis’ other collaborations such as The Princess and the Petri Dish, Mary Had a Little Lab, and Little Red Rhyming Hood.  Written in playful rhyme with detailed and quirky illustrations, the retelling shares a message of creativity, imagination, resourcefulness, and teamwork.  



The Star Festival by Moni Ritchie Hadley Illustrated by Mizuho Fujisawa (April 1, 2021)

This narrative story teaches young readers about Tanabata Matsuri, also known as Japan’s Star Festival   Young Keiko is excited to celebrate with her family dressing in her summer kimono,  putting on her geta (shoes), and making a wish.  As she prepares and they make their way to the festival, Oba (grandmother) tells the origin of the celebration, how two stars, Orihime and Hikoboshi, fell in love, but once married, neglected their work.  As punishment, Orihime’s father only allowed his daughter to see Hikoboshi once a year after their work was done.  As the family walks through town, Keiko’s enthusiasm is evident in both the text and the art as she admires the decorations and enjoys the games and food.  In the crowds, she and her mother are separated from Oba.  Sitting on top of her mother’s shoulders, Keiko spies Oba but a parade is between them similar to the river that Orihime and Hikoboshi had to cross on their first meeting.  Like the stars, Keiko is determined to be reunited with Oba and when they are, the family celebrates with one of their wishes, shaved ice.

I love how Hadley wove the folktale and Keiko’s family’s story together and along with Fujisawa’s warm, expressive illustrations, The Star Festival celebrates not only a Japanese tradition but also the importance of sharing customs as a family.  Back matter includes more information about the festival as well as food, decorations, and directions to make a tanzaku to share your own wish. 



Shaped by Her Hands: Potter Maria Martinez by Anna Harber Freeman & Barbara Gonzales Illustrated by Aphelandra (April 1, 2021)

Maria Martinez was the most famous American Indian potter of her time.  This biography shares her life story of learning the art of pottery under the guidance of her Aunt Nicolasa.  Besides teaching her techniques, her aunt instilled in Maria the importance of thanking Mother Earth for the materials and sharing her clay knowledge with others.  After attending boarding school, Maria returned to her pueblo, married, started a family and continued perfecting her craft.  Because of her immense skills, an archeologist, Edgar Lee Hewitt, approached Maria asking her to replicate a pot based on an ancient sherd he found on a dig.  Never having seen black pottery, Maria was determined to create it and after experimenting, she was successful.  Her pottery intrigued Hewitt because it was a blend of both the old and new.  Not long after, Maria’s pottery was being sold in Santa Fe and demand was high.  Recalling her aunt’s words, Maria taught family and friends and even demonstrated pottery making across the country sharing her knowledge with others. 

The backmatter includes more information about Maria Martinez, The Tewa People and the San Ildefonso Pueblo.  I greatly appreciate the authors’ note, for I learned Gonzales is the great grandchild of Maria.  Freeman, an art teacher, who learned about Maria Martinez from her grandmother, wished to teach her students about her work, but was unable to find books about her.  Through their collaboration, Shaped by Her Hands was written.  Aphelandra’s rich and earthy artwork brings the story to another level.  


Listening to the Stars: Jocelyn Bell Burnell Discovers Pulsars by Jodie Parachini Illustrated by Alexandra Badiu

“If you open your mind, you can hear the universe.” 

Irish born Jocelyn Bell always had a love for astronomy and while girls typically did not study science in the 1950’s, Jocelyn was determined to fulfill her dream of becoming an astronomer.  Rather than stay up late to study the stars, Jocelyn had heard about a radio telescope which she could listen to during the day.  It took two years to construct her own radio telescope, and in 1967, Jocelyn heard a scruffy sound as regular as a heartbeat.  And unlike the professors who joked the sounds were from aliens, Jocelyn knew she discovered something important.  And she was right, for Jocelyn’s sound waves were actually from a neutron star.  She had discovered a pulsar star!  

After her extraordinary discovery, Jocelyn continued her work even after marrying and having children, which was rare in the late 1960’s.  In 1974, when the Nobel Prize was awarded to men who worked with her on the pulsar project, Jocelyn remained gracious, for she was happy that astronomy had been recognized for the first time ever.  What I love about Listening to the Stars is how Jocelyn Bell Burnell was a pioneer in astronomy and this picture book biography will support and encourage young girls with an interest in science pave their own way.  



Dylan’s Dragon by Annie Silvestro Illustrated by Ben Whitehouse (April 1, 2021)

Dylan is a doodler and daydreamer about dragons but as he gets older, his days are filled with lots of activities from karate, baseball, and swimming to homework, piano, and science club.  So when Dragon unexpectedly appears at Dylan’s house wanting to play, Dylan is surprised but asks if he can play later.  Dragon continues to return but Dylan’s schedule is so tight it seems he will never have time to play with Dragon.  Finally, on Sunday morning, Dylan has nothing to do, but Dragon is draGONE.  Dylan expresses his sadness to his mom who admits his schedule needs to be cut back.  Will Dylan be able to find Dragon?   With time to doodle and daydream, it doesn’t take long before Dragon pops back into Dylan’s life. 

Dylan’s Dragon is a story that reminds us the importance of slowing down and enjoying the carefree, unscheduled moments in our lives.  Silvestro’s text and Whitehouse’s illustrations work well together communicating Dylan’s hectic lifestyle and his frustration with never getting to play.  I love that drawing and imagination is celebrated as a way to play and relax.  

Bella’s Dog Pick of the Week

Wanting to spread the dog love, Beagles and Books has a weekly feature of highlighting a literary selection with a canine main character.




I’m a Gluten-Sniffing Service Dog by Michal Babay  Illustrated by Ela Smietanka (April 1, 2021)

Chewie is training to be a service dog for a young girl named Alice who is living with celiac disease. His job is to detect gluten, for even a small amount of this protein can make Alice sick.  When Chewie smells gluten, he alerts by running in a circle and sits down if it is gluten-free.  Training is hard work for Chewie because it’s not easy to stay focused and ignore things like bugs, birds, and left over pizza on the ground.  Knowing that Alice is depending on him is just the encouragement Chewie needs to buckle down and after a week of training working directly with Alice, Chewie graduates as an official service dog. 

I have read stories about service dogs, but I’m a Gluten-Sniffing Service Dog is the first picture book I have read which shares how dogs can be trained to smell gluten. In the author’s note, Babay explains that the book is based on the true story of her daughter and her service dog.  I love how Babay chose to tell the story from Chewie’s point of view because readers see his struggles and his triumphs and Smietanka’s playful illustrations show his love for his job and Alice.